David Whyte’s book, “Consolations” brings a range of new understandings to some common concepts that are often seen negatively. He transforms the deep pain of the human experiences such as despair, discouragement and betrayal into encounters that are deeply transformative. I believe that he is fighting against our world’s urge to rid ourselves of anything that is slightly uncomfortable.
When I was reflecting with my spiritual mentor about my encounter with depression he said to me, “Chris, this is a horrible thing to have to go through. But, while you are in the midst of it don’t lose the gold that this experience contains.”
I know that my fleeting encounter with depression contained some dark moments that I never wish to return to. But, I also realise that I am discovering more and more gold as I emerge from that experience. I find that I am able to visit them and be comfortable with them being a part of my story. They have added a richness to my story that wasn’t there before.
One of my favourite movies is “A Beautiful Mind”, starring Russell Crowe. It’s the story of a genius who is tortured by hallucinations and paranoia. At the end of the movie as the Nobel Prize is accepted, the companions that have tortured the main character throughout the movie are still with him but there is a sense of acceptance portrayed in how they have contributed to make him who is is. As he completes his acceptance speech he gives them a nod of acknowledgement as they leave the room together.
The words from my mentor were not saying that I should stay in the pits of darkness. Instead they were an encouragement to listen to my life and what this experience was saying to me. Denial would rob me of the “gold” that was a part of that period of my life. The transformation is that I am more deeply aware of who I am and much more committed to living out that life.
In world that seeks to find a cure for anything vaguely uncomfortable I wrote the poem Transformation. When I was totally at the end of my rope and in the midst of a sense of total aloneness I discovered some very dear friends that were essential for my own personal transformation. I am sure that I will be deeply uncomfortable many more times in the future but hopefully I will be able to bring my own “consolations” to whatever circumstances that are a part of my story.
Despair was the empty echo,
That shattered each daily thought,
My life a desperate search for understanding,
Lived in fear of never being heard.
My soul strung out tautly,
Daily wound tight, stretched to breaking,
As I discovered myself with nothing left,
I visited the place of “No Hope”.
There my friends found me,
They listened to my circular tale,
My words seeking their source,
In the pain and the lonely tears,
There emerged a glimmer of hope.
Discovering disappointment as my companion,
Listening to despair’s words spoken each day,
No longer feared enemies,
Disappointment my trusted mentor,
Despair my compassionate friend,
In them I discovered transformation’s source,
As my voice was heard again.